Thursday, 20 July 2017

It's here! The Sediment book in paperback!

http://amzn.to/2tlJ9dy

“It’s the funniest wine-book I’ve read in a long time. Not just laugh-aloud funny but snortingly, choke-on-your-cornflakes funny – up there with Kingsley Amis and Jay McInerney.”  
Julian Barnes



“A very funny book to dip in and out of and would make the perfect present for the wine bore in your life”  
The Independent, Drinks Books of the Year



"Read this book, but not on public transport. Achingly funny."  
Joanna Simon 


– | –

CJ: So the rumours were true, then? 

PK: Yes! A paperback edition of our AndrĂ© Simon award-winning book – and it’s out now!

CJ: Paperback, eh? So it’s cheaper than the hardback?

PK: Well, as I’m always saying, price isn’t everything. But yes, it is cheaper. The cover price is just £8.99. It’s selling for less than a decent bottle of wine!

CJ: I wouldn’t say that personally, but…

PK: What would you say personally?

CJ: All the goodness of the original Sediment hardback, refashioned into a handy yet glamorous paperback.

PK: I think you’ve said that already, in the new introduction.

CJ: Oh yes, it’s got a new introduction. And, bringing our motto to the fore, a new title.

PK: A bit like renaming Chateau Bahans Haut-Brion as Le Clarence de Haut-Brion?

CJ: You tell me.

PK: But it’s what’s inside that’s important. It’s had the time to mature, like a good claret. I knew it would benefit from laying down for a bit. Like its authors. It’s clearly one of my kind of things.

CJ: Well, I’d say it was one of mine, actually. It’s more mass-market, it’s easier to handle, and it’s cheaper. You can afford to enjoy it all by yourself.

PK: Or give it as a gift! It’s a much better gift than the bottle of wine you could get at that price!

CJ: If you say so…


– | –



AVAILABLE HERE AND NOW!* I've Bought It, So I'll Drink It: The joys (or not) of drinking wine, by CJ and PK, £8.99 (Metro)

*Ignore what Amazon are currently saying about August, it really is available from them now. Or from Waterstones.

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Berry Bros. & Rudd: My Secret Pride

As readers will recall, CJ finally visited the historic premises of wine merchants Berry Bros & Rudd, at No 3 St James’s Street – and was too daunted to enter.

I understand. There are places I’m daunted by – like fishmongers’. 


But what CJ deemed inaccessible, I had always seen as an aspiration, the epitome of wine merchants with ampersands whose respect I wanted to earn. I always felt significant when I stepped through their doors.

So if anything, their announcement of a new shop, just around the corner at 63 Pall Mall, had filled me with trepidation. Especially when their CEO, a former Tesco executive, was quoted as saying that the new store would be “much more finely attuned to modern retail.” What, like Tesco?

Of course, CJ was completely unaware of this new shop when he visited the old. The original premises carried no indication of the nearby new shop; not even, CJ told me, a suitably historic maniculum to guide the way.


So despite my misgivings, as CJ had visited the old premises, I felt I must visit the new. The first issue was what to wear.

Cue snort of incredulity from CJ. But look, even he wouldn’t go to church in a singlet. I always feel that, like any appointment with a professional, one should show a modicum of respect for knowledge and experience. So I would have worn to the old premises what good restaurants now describe as “smart attire”; I hoped that would be appropriate for the new. Although I might be overdressed for Tesco.

Well, the new shop is certainly smartly attired itself. It has stone floors and beautiful wooden shelving, with each bottle displayed in an individual section. It’s tastefully modern, luxurious but thankfully without any trace of objectionable bling – it’s Heals, not Harrods. 


And it is a browser’s paradise, something which could never have been said of the old premises, where you literally had to ask in order to see a bottle. There are the best and longest descriptions and tasting notes I have seen anywhere, beside every single bottle, no matter what its price. In that sense, it’s the most egalitarian of wine shops, treating all its bottles (and, therefore, its customers) equally. The only betrayals of status are the occasional security tags.

(Tags? In St James’s? Really?? Yes. I understand some bankers are wearing them nowadays, too…)

There are wines you can taste from an Enomatic, and chairs to sit in while you do. There are shelves of accessories, and tools, and wine books. And the (welcoming but not intrusive) staff wear rather fetching aprons, giving them an artisanal air. Having said that, the chap who actually served me was wearing a suit; when I asked why, he said “I don’t always work here, I’m based in No 3.” Which says it all, really; aprons in the new shop, suits in the old.

And of course I succumbed, and bought a bottle of claret, as one does at Berry Bros. It was a “Staff Recommendation”. Which at one time, of course, every bottle was.

The one niggle is… this thing about earnt access. Earnt not through an accident of birth or wealth, but through learning. I feel that over the years I earnt my access, to Parisian restaurants, to Savile Row tailors, to book dealers and shirtmakers and, yes, St James’s wine merchants, by learning to speak their language – what to know, what to wear, what to say, how to behave. And I can’t help feeling sorry that something to which I felt I had earnt access, somewhere I finally felt confident enough to enter but CJ did not dare to tread, has now been thrown open to all and sundry. That’s all.

I walked back along Pall Mall, past the club to which I have the right to belong, the club to which I used to belong, and the club to which my father-in-law would like to propose me to belong. Perhaps as daunting to some as the original Berry Bros premises. But while the doormen of St James's would turn up their noses at CJ’s shorts and sockless sandals, I reckon he could comfortably enter 63 Pall Mall. This new shop is egalitarian not only in the wines it sells, but in the way it has opened doors – of Berry Bros, of St James’s and of wine itself.



PK

Thursday, 6 July 2017

Blueberries

So it's too hot to do anything. The sun burns down. Our pals are on a visit from their place in the South of France and they're complaining about the heat. Just sitting in the back garden, staring at the opal sky, takes it out of me. The birds fall silent. I blink at our dripping bathroom overflow and wish I could stand underneath it.

Then, an idea: I have some half-finished Asda champagne sitting in the fridge (Henri Cachet, recognisably a champagne and only £14) and some blueberries. I shall recreate a drink I once enjoyed (at a boat show, don't ask) in which a well-known champagne maker dished out free samples of his product in giant plastic glasses etched with the company logo, but - and this is the point - made them go much, much, further by the addition of some ice and a couple of blueberries in each glass. Sounds disgusting? At the time, it was heavenly and I could even sit down while I drank it and watch millions and millions of pounds' worth of yachts fail to get bought. What's more, blueberries are a good source of vitamin K (helps wounds heal) and antioxidants (might prevent or delay some types of cell damage). Let's do it again, I vow, reeling back into the house and towards the kitchen.

Nothing could be simpler. In go the ingredients, the blueberries ever so slightly bruised, just in case this helps, and I return to the garden with my champagne glass. I take a swig. Do you know what? It works. This is not least because, after a day in the fridge, the Henri Cachet, while still about zingy enough, has nevertheless taken on a certain flabby, caramel, quality, something for the bite of the blueberries and the moderating effects of meltwater to get to grips with in an entirely beneficial way. See pic.

Trouble is, I then feel a great and overwhelming need not to let things lie. Instead, I recall another use of blueberries, as explained to me by someone who knows their alcohol: this being a kind of micro-Martini, in which a measure of gin is joined by a chunk of ice and a couple of blueberries to hint at some other kind of aromatic intervention. It's the work of a moment. And yes, on the one hand it's delicious, mainly because a shot of Sipsmith on ice is always fab - I know, Sipsmith, so commercialised these days, but what a voluptuous gin they make - while, on the other hand, is not much more than that. The blueberries sit around looking enigmatic: fished out and eaten when everything else has gone, they do yield a tasty, steeped, mouthful, but I couldn't say that the drink as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Now I'm frustrated. The heat and the gin are doing nothing for my better judgement. So determined am I to further the blueberries' talents in my own head, to insist on their suitability for all drinks and occasions, I dig out a work-in-progress three-day-old bottle of McGuigan Shiraz. I pour out a bit, lob in a couple more blueberries, watch them sink to the now-lightless bottom of the glass like paperweights. Tastewise? Well, the Shiraz has already got the miasma of envelope adhesive which three days of being opened will encourage and the blueberries, it seems, only add to that. I taste leather. I taste working man's gloves. It isn't any better than it was. In fact it might be slightly worse. I can't believe that the blueberries aren't working.

And so, like something out of Malcolm Lowry, or perhaps, simply, like Malcolm Lowry, I wander outside again, a haze of liquor coming off me in the desperate heat, disorientated, numb with failed obsessions. Why couldn't I just leave it at the champagne? No, but then, the champagne was a success, I mustn't lose sight of that. Such a success that I might make even a habit of it. Yes, that's important. I musn't forget it.

'It was a success,' I say out loud, to make it real.

CJ